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Northern State University in Aberdeen may soon be a smoke-free zone. Northern State University photo.
Northern State University in Aberdeen may soon be a smoke-free zone. Northern State University photo.

Tobacco-free Aberdeen?

Dec 17, 2012


Abraham Lincoln did not regard himself as a handsome man. Once he met a woman on horseback and paused to let her pass. She halted her mount and exclaimed “I do believe you are the ugliest man I ever saw.” Lincoln didn’t argue the point. “Madam, you are probably right, but I can’t help it.” “No,” she replied, “but you might have had the decency to stay home.”

That raises a question for many of us who are not inspired when we confront a mirror. Am I committing a breach of the public peace merely by going out in public without a burlap bag over my head?

Some folks at Northern State University apparently want the campus to be declared smoke free. Smoking is currently prohibited inside all campus facilities and within fifty feet of any building. Going smoke free would ensure that no one has to tolerate even the slightest scent of tobacco anywhere on university property. Smokers wishing to enjoy their peculiar habit would have to leave campus, perhaps to walk down one of our sidewalks or sit in a public park. Of course, those venues will soon come under the scrutiny of the health police, if this has not happened already.

There are a number of reasons for territorial bans on smoking. Dense, second hand smoke may be a health risk for nonsmokers exposed to it. That is the argument for banning it in bars and other public or commercial buildings. There is no reason to believe that smoking outdoors is a threat anyone other than the smoker, but don’t we all have the right never to be irritated by anything that someone else might choose to do? Banning smoking in as many places as possible might also encourage a smoker to quit or discourage others from taking up the habit. Smokers obviously aren’t making good decisions regarding their own health. Shouldn’t those who know better use the power of law to browbeat tobacco fiends into making better decisions? After all, the wages of tobacco use raise the costs of health care for all of us.

Perhaps this thinking doesn’t go far enough. Why should the righteously svelte have to be annoyed by the sight of people who are egregiously overweight, or underweight for that matter? So far as I know, no one had yet alleged that the consumption of trans fats has any second hand effects on people pushing their forks into organic salads. Still, every extra pound adds to the national medical bill. Why not declare all public spaces closed to anyone who does not have an acceptable body mass index? That would encourage some healthy lifestyle choices.

Everyone seems to agree that we should encourage healthier living. Why let retrograde notions like personal choice and the right to be left alone stand in the way of correcting those who won’t take the hint? As for optically offensive folks like Lincoln and perhaps yours truly, we may just have to stay at home. 


Editor's Note: Ken Blanchard is our political columnist from the right. For a left-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Cory Heidelberger every other Wednesday on this site.

Dr. Ken Blanchard is a professor of Political Science at Northern State University and writes for the Aberdeen American News and the blog South Dakota Politics.


08:08 pm - Mon, December 17 2012
Bernie said:
Yes, it's a slippery and smoky slope. Just talked to a fellow who has lived in an apartment house in a smalltown for many years. He now realizes that he has developed some health issues that are smoke related, but he doesn't smoke. His apartment neighbors do, quite a lot apparently. Interestingly, now that he knows that it is hurting his health it bothers him quite a lot. Of course, he can move. But he wonders why he should be the one to move when he has been there longer than anyone.
11:45 am - Wed, December 19 2012
dave tunge said:
Can one verify that this individuals health problem is smoke related? Or is that just the answer to health issues that no one can pinpoint?
Smoking, according to all medical sources, kills people. That seems to be a fact accepted by most everyone.
Question now..........Why are tobacco products still on the market with all the evidence that people die from the effects of smoking? There is only one simple answer and that is that our governments allow it. While federal and state officials are constantly spitting on this cursed behavior.......even spending millions to educate the masses on its destructive forces.......they secretly hope that people don't quit. The tax monies received by all government agencies are a massive influx of cash. So while the preachers on the pulpit tells us smoking is bad for us and those around us, their actions are saying "we don't care how many people get sick and die from tobacco as long as we get the almighty tax dollars from this industry.

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